Over the past few weeks and all over the world we have seen an incredible outpouring of support for the Palestinian resistance in the name of solidarity and anti-imperialism. Here in the United States, through the mainstream media and the so-called “education” we receive, we have been forcefed years of Pro-Zionist, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Muslim propaganda. But we are beginning to see through these lies, and we are beginning to fight back. Here in the U.S. and all over the world, the movement against Israeli apartheid and the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people is growing.
Name a city, and more than likely there have been Pro-Palestinian demonstrations and protests taking place there: New York, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Baghdad, Madrid, Paris, Berlin; protests in Doha, Qatar, and in the Lebanese border village of Odayseh. The world is showing its support for the Palestininan movement. But I want to specifically talk about things here on the ground in Philadelphia.
First off, Philadelphia is known for its large Muslim population. Muslims from all walks of life live here. Whether these are Sunni Muslims from South Philadelphia whose lineage goes back to the Nation of Islam, current members of the Nation of Islam, migrant families from countries like Pakistan, Palestine, Bangledesh, etc. And also converts to the faith who may have been raised Christian or otherwise. This city is a thriving hub and home to many people who are part of the Islamic faith.
When I was a child growing up on the West side of the Powelton section in West Philadelphia, I started to notice many families moving into the community. These families I knew weren’t originally from Philadelphia, but I could see their attachment and love for the community, and their intention to plant deep roots here. I remember several places of worship in the neighborhood our neighbors attended, along with businesses and restaurants that added to the community. This sharing of space and culture over many decades has allowed us to see our neighbors as family, but also as allies and as comrades. Based on some of the things we experience by living in Philadelphia — while Muslim, Black, or both — state repression is everywhere.
I remember growing up in Philly, and hearing stories from Palestinian neighbors about how things were in Gaza. These stories were eye-opening: they differed so much from the stories we heard (or didn’t hear) in the media or in school. Many of these stories came from kids who were my age at the time, and it completely shifted my understanding of what was going on in what I now understand as occupied Palestine. And it was these first-hand accounts from both children and adults that made me think twice about what I was being taught.
These stories were gut wrenching, and they were not completely unfamiliar either. Black Americans have dealt with oppression, colonization, apartheid conditions, and fighting for justice for a very long time. From the middle passage, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, to fighting for Civil Rights and against police brutality today, there is a common thread: both Palestinian and Black people have been taken and/or colonized by settler colonial states. Our histories have been permeated with a series of events that have oppressed us, but there is a great deal of resilience and resistance too, and we need to keep heightening the contradictions and building unity and solidarity under imperialism and apartheid. Because unity is how we win.
Remember apartheid South Africa? Apartheid in South Africa and al-Nakba (“The Catastrophe”) both started in 1948 — and it was the incredible resistance of the people of South Africa against the aparthied government, paired with a huge movement of global solidarity, that finally smashed apartheid in South Africa once and for all. These oppressions are connected: imperialism and apartheid states are led by the same players who are involved in and responsible for our colonization: is it a surprise that the empire of the United States government propped-up South African apartheid, and continues to prop up apartheid in occupied Palestine? This is why we must connect struggles and realize what’s being done, how it is impacting our lives, and fight back together.
One thing I have to note: having grown up in Philadelphia, under conditions of poverty and violence, I know this poverty and violence is created by the state, and I know that it is only the solidarity of millions of people that will win an end to this poverty and violence. But, unfortunately, there is a reactionary push to lead young people who may be achieving academic or entrepreneurial success into a worldview of individuality and neoliberalism. Institutions and the state try to lead young marginalized people, who may be on the brink of individual success, to think in the ways of those who have colonized us — and this more often than not leads to a colonized way of thinking, and institutions push this. The Democratic Party in this city pushes this. The evangelical Christian government is an institution that has many Zionist and anti-Islamic proclivities and views that are many times picked up by people in our community. Many institutions push opportunities to visit Israel on “birthright” pilgrimages, where youth are more-likely to develop ways of thinking that support settler colonial states. This is all indoctrination, and a clear tactic by the state and ruling class to develop a misleadership class to push these views into the rest of the community.
It is not in our best interests to politically support those who are blatantly responsible for the violence and persecution of those of us who just want to be free — and that goes for Philadelphia and that goes for Palestine. It is our responsibility to disrupt the reactionary tactics of the state and start developing revolutionary tactics for the people. For Black People. For Black Muslim People. For Palestinian People. For all of us.